How can God be both good and sovereign, when there is tragedy in the world?
How do you reconcile those three things? How do they work together? These are often posed as a question that acknowledges realities that seem to conflict with what is taught in the Church and in the Bible.
This has been a question I’ve dealt with academically, through my schooling; clinically as a counselor. And now, personally, at a much greater level than I had in the past.
For anyone is not aware, I lost my brother Jon in August of 2016, and in particular I lost him to suicide. Jon chose to take his own life.
That is an evil thing, that is a tragic thing that has caused me a lot of grief. It has caused my family a lot of grief. A lot of pain. I have dealt with depression in a way that I have not dealt with before that. And anger, I’ve dealt with anger in ways that I have not dealt with for a long time after losing my brother.
I’ve had some challenges personally that came out of that. That have made it very difficult for me to make these videos consistently. That has made it very difficult for me to write consistently or do anything for the blog consistently.
There have also been some really great things that have come out of that. Some good things. So here’s what’s going on. Right now, for the blog, for the website, I am in the middle of a series, or towards the end of a series on the fruit of the spirit, how to cultivate the fruit of the spirit in your life and your relationships. I’ve been going through those one by one, and I’m due for the video on gentleness. I haven’t done it yet. Because I’m taking a break to work on a project with my mom.
There have been two more suicides in our community recently. The pain of this type of loss is fresh in our community, in our town. Now, my mom and I, my family and I, we do not want to presume that we have any right to speak into that pain. But, to the extent that we can bring hope and healing to the hurt of others, we want to do that, and we believe that we have a responsibility to do that.
So we have been writing down some of the things that have encouraged us through this journey. And the main product that is going to come of that is a devotional that goes through John Chapter 20. And what’s going on in John Chapter 20 is that Jesus has died and the disciples are not yet quite aware of His resurrection, the fact that He has come back to life after being killed. And Jesus comes to them in a locked room and He speaks to them, He encourages them, He shows them His hands, the wounds in His hands, and He shows them the wound in His side.
Initially you would not necessarily expect that that Scripture is something that you would use to encourage someone on a grief journey, or who is grieving a loss. Or recovering from a trauma. But my mom especially, and with the help of some of her close friends, did a lot of meditation on this this part of Scripture and drew a great deal of encouragement from it. And she developed a talk. She developed a little message from it, and I saw that, and so we’re writing some more. We’re developing that a little bit.
So here is, kind of the crux of the message, the main thing that we’re trying to answer in a way. Walking through tragedy with victory is possible because God is good and sovereign even though there is evil in the world. It deals very much with that question I opened this video with.
This is, an academic question. It’s dealt with by pastors and theologians and apologists, all throughout Christian history. It is a clinical question that counselors, and especially Christian counselors, deal with with their clients.
For me it is a personal question. For my family, it is a personal question because of the depth of loss that we have experienced and knowing that it is an evil thing. And we also know that God is good and God is sovereign in spite of that evil that we have experienced.
So just broadly, basically, here are some of the things that I want to share. Now, different streams of Christianity think a little bit differently about this question. Here’s where I’m at, from an academic level, from a clinical level and from a personal level.
God knew that Jon was going to die by suicide. God knows that evil things are going to happen in this world. He did not plan for them. They are not a part of His plan, but He allows them. Both in His sovereignty, in His all-powerfulness and in His goodness, He allows us to make some really stupid, really sinful, really hurtful and really tragic choices.
Those choices hurt us, they hurt others, they hurt people that we don’t even know. God allows sin for reasons that we don’t know, we don’t understand. But, God reserves, in His sovereignty, He reserves the right and the ability for Himself to redeem, or restore, good, and glory and righteousness and healing.
God reserves the right to redeem tragedy and to bring restoration, to bring healing to those things, to the pain that people have experienced.
The best example of that is Jesus Christ on the cross. The best person who ever lived had the worst thing possible happened to Him, and God redeemed it. That one in particular was part of God’s plan because that is what made salvation possible. That is what made the forgiveness of sins possible, but for all of the other sins, all of the other evils and all of the other tragedies that we experience, those are things that God allowed, and then over time redeems. He changes them. Takes the purpose of them from being an evil thing to being something that is good.
Redemption from sin is possible because of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. And redemption from tragedy is possible because of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, but it is experienced as a process.
Triumph through tragedy is not a one-time thing. Walking through tragedy with victory is not a one-time thing. It is a process, it is something that happens continually. It is a daily choice in some cases, a daily prayer in some cases, and it’s a daily experience.
So that’s what I have to share for right now. There’s a whole lot more in this devotional that’s coming up. I hope that by hearing some of where I’m at, some of where I’ve been recently, that you are encouraged wherever you are at in your life. Whatever you’re going through.
Some of you have been through much worse things than me. Some of you have not been through something so hard. Either way, I hope that you were encouraged.
If you have a comment or a question, if you’re interested in getting a copy of this devotional, please leave a comment or a question below. Make sure you’re subscribed to the email newsletter, and I’ll make sure that you get information about the devotional when it is released. Thank you for reading.
How to Cultivate Goodness in Your Life and Relationships
Walking Through Tragedy With Victory – We are Sent, We are not Alone
Walking Through Tragedy With Victory (Part 3): Jesus Brings Peace, Understanding, and Joy
Walking Through Tragedy With Victory (Part 2): Community is Critical
Walking Through Tragedy With Victory (Part 1): Introduction
Update on the book, and back to regular blogging